Dealing With the F-Word (Failure!)

Failure.

The word can evoke as many strong reactions and emotions as another F-word that isn’t appropriate for polite company.

Why is that? We fail every day. (I just missed my mouth with an almond because I was concentrating on my computer screen too hard. Fail!) Yet, the prospect of failure can cause the very thing we’re trying to avoid, or even keep us from starting something we might find incredibly rewarding.

Happy funny messy eater

I believe the fear of failure is instilled early. Parents are so afraid of damaging their children’s self-esteem, we’ve created things like participation awards and have graduation ceremonies for kindergarten.

Boy painting

Now, while these things have a certain cuteness factor to them, what they don’t teach us is how to fail, or more importantly, that it’s okay to fail.

I coached youth soccer for many years and one thing I always told my players was that mistakes are good things, because they give us an opportunity to learn. Blind luck can sometimes produce a perfect result the very first time we try something, but luck isn’t reproducible. It’s only by practice — trying and failing and trying again — that we can truly master something. Even then, we are often still subject to failure.

Soccer, in fact, is what inspired this post. I was watching the Copa America championship game this weekend between Chilé and Argentina. Lionel Messi, who plays for Argentina, is arguably the best player on the planet — possibly the best player ever — yet, the game went all the way through overtime without a score for either side. When that happens, a winner is decided by a series of penalty kicks. One player places the ball on a spot, twelve yards from the goal, and has a single kick to score against the opposing goalkeeper. Now, the goal is eight feet high and twenty-four feet wide. It’s a lot of space for one person to cover and the kicker scores a goal most of the time. Piece of cake for the best player in the world, right?

Not this time.

Messi missed his penalty and Argentina went on to lose in the shootout.

The story, and lesson, however, don’t end there. How did Messi react to his failure: the first time he’d ever missed in a penalty shootout?

He RETIRED!

Yes, the pressure on him was enormous and the loss was devastating, but his failure was not the sole reason for the outcome. Other players had chances to positively impact the game and the result during the match, but they, too, failed.

Is this how we wish for our children — or ourselves — to respond in the face of failure? To quit? To give up?

How do we overcome failure?

1: Own It.

Recognize your mistake and own up to it. When confronted with failure, our first instinct is often to deny it or shift blame.

Car crash

Resist this impulse, take responsibility, and…

2: Embrace Your Opportunity to Learn

Dissect and diagnose your failure. Where, exactly, did things go wrong? What can I do to achieve a better result when I try again? Many times we will need help from an outside source with this examination. Asking for that help can often be as difficult as the failure itself, but benefitting from someone else’s experiences is usually less painful in the long run than making all the mistakes yourself! Then…

3: Define Success Before You Start Again

This sounds like it should be step one, but I think we need to try something once to establish just how difficult a task it is before we try to set goals for ourselves.

Hypothetically, let’s say a budding, not-so-young writer discovers a book called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and sees the success J.K. Rowling had with it, then says, “Heck, I can do that!” and sits down to pen his first novel. Well, I think we can all agree that’s a recipe for failure if we’ve ever heard one. I certainly wouldn’t know anyone who has done that. *Rolls eyes and mutters*

Regardless of how easy something looks, we have to remember one key detail: If it was easy, everyone would do it. If everyone isn’t doing it, then perhaps it isn’t as easy as it appears at first glance. Why do you suppose 80% of the populace thinks “they have a novel in them if they only had the time to write it.”? If they actually sat down and tried, most would quickly reassess the difficulty of the task.

So, set goals which take effort to achieve, but aren’t so lofty as to be impossible to reach straight out of the gate. And stop to reassess often to determine if outside help might be required, or if the bar for success needs to be adjusted.

It’s been about seven years since I published my first book, which took nearly ten humbling months to complete, and I’ve written five more, plus one novella (ghost written for someone else) to date. I’m still failing and learning from those failures and I’m sure I’ll continue to do both. Ms. Rowling’s top spot hasn’t come under much threat from my direction… yet! But, I’m not about to give up and retire.

And I hope Mr. Messi reconsiders his decision and continues to offer his services playing the beautiful game for Argentina in the future. I, for one, will mourn the loss if he does not.

_____________________

TuckerPenny1010smAlan Tucker , author of The Mother-Earth Series (A Measure of Disorder, A Cure for Chaos, and Mother’s Heart), as well as a new science fiction series, beginning with Knot in Time, is a dad, a graphic designer, and a soccer coach. Mostly in that order. He’s had a lifelong adoration of books, beginning with Encyclopedia Brown, progressing through Alan Dean Foster’s Flinx, and continuing on with the likes of Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine and Naomi Novik, to name a few.

“I wanted to write books that I’d enjoy reading. Books that I hoped my kids would enjoy too!”

Visit his website for more information about his books. View maps, watch trailers, see reviews and much more!

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Tackling Titillating Taglines…

Hit your readers hard with a great tagline
Hit your readers hard with a great tagline

You need to hit readers hard, blindside them with an awesome tagline in order to grab their attention. I cannot overestimate the importance of this. Your tagline, blurb and excerpt are the most important sales tools you have for your book. Choose them wisely.

Every author wants people to read their book, right? Well, they aren’t going to find your book unless you put it out there and MAKE them want to read it. Throwing away your tagline and blurb is just like taking your book and throwing it off a bridge in the hopes that someone will fish it out of the ocean, find it, and think it’s great. So let’s go over developing a tagline that will make readers care enough to pick up your book and purchase it.

A tagline is—or should be—one of the simplest things to create. A tagline is—plain and simply—a one sentence summation of the theme of your book. Something quick and catchy. If you’re moving on through publishing by attending conferences and conventions, a tagline is similar to what is called an elevator pitch. What you want to do is to catch a reader’s—or an agent’s or an editor’s—attention with a one-sentence description.

Remember, a PITCH and a TAGLINE are two different things. A PITCH is to get someone to buy your book with the intent to publish it. A TAGLINE is to get someone anonymous, in a bookstore or online, to buy your book to READ it. So your tagline should be about your BOOK.

Here’s the tagline for the first book in my middle grade/young adult time travel series, The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis:

“Children are the keys to our future. And now, children are the only hope for our past.”

Is it the best tagline ever? Nope, probably not. But it tells the reader exactly what the theme of the book is. Look at the points it covers—what it tells you about the book. What does that tagline cover?

Children. Keys. Future. Hope. Past.

That’s the purpose of a tagline and how to make it work for you. Therefore—homework lesson number one. Sit down and READ your book. You may think you know what it’s about, but if you’re a writer like me—you don’t. READ IT. As you read, jot down notes to yourself. One. Word. Notes. Hit the high points of your book. What themes, what high points do you think sell your book? No—even simpler: what tags or key words are IN your book? Because those are what will sell your book. Readers don’t always know what they’re looking for in something to read. Your tagline will give them clues.

A few examples of great taglines:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – It takes a graveyard to raise a child.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner – Remember. Survive. Run.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson – Two lives are bridged – and nothing will be the same.

Do you see what all of these taglines have in common? They titillated enough readers to become bestsellers.

So that’s your first job after your book is written. To sit down and read your book, and to pull a tagline from it. And this is where the elevator pitch and the tagline come together. In an elevator pitch, you’ve got maybe thirty seconds to gain the interest of an editor or an agent—just as long as it takes the elevator to get to their floor. With a reader, you have your book cover and one sentence—just one sentence—to convince them to click through and read more. You cannot afford to throw that chance away. So a tagline that’s trite or vague or boring cannot be an option.

Here’s a sneak peek at the tagline for the next book in my time travel series, The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret set to be released on October 17th 2016:

“Only a true hero can shine the light in humanity’s darkest time.”

Sharon Ledwith HeadshotSharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and is represented by Walden House (Books & Stuff) for her teen psychic series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercise, and anything arcane. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

Add the Book “Wonder” to your Tween’s TBR Pile!

 

Hello everyone! I hope all is well with you! I’m Lisa Orchard the bestselling author of “The Super Spies” series and I’m here today to recommend an awesome book for your tween.

Back in March, I read the book “Wonder.” So did my son. There were many lessons in that story and my son and I got to talking about a few of them. It was nice to have that kind of dialogue with him, and I chalked it up to a bonding moment between us.

The story is about Auggie Pullman, he has a birth defect that makes his face abnormal in appearance. He’s been homeschooled his whole life, but now he’s being mainstreamed into a public school. It’s the story of how Auggie deals with his peers reactions to his disability. It’s heartbreaking at times and you really feel his pain.

It’s also triumphant, because Auggie never quits even though he wants to. He’s a strong “little dude” and his strength shines through.

This is an incredible story of perseverance, empathy, and friendship. Lessons we all want our tweens to learn. I highly recommend this book. The cover and blurb are below.

How about you? Do you have any great book recommendations for tweens?

 

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

“Wonder is the best kids’ book of the year,” said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

 

20111210_ABS_1296[1]Lisa Orchard grew up loving books. She was hooked on books by the fifth grade and even wrote a few of her own. She knew she wanted to be a writer even then. Her first published works are the “Super Spies Series.” These stories revolve around a group of friends who form their own detective squad and the cases they solve. “The Starlight Chronicles,” is the next series Lisa created with musical misfit, Lark Singer as her main character.

Lisa resides in Michigan with her husband, Steve, and two wonderful boys. Currently, she’s working on the next book in the Starlight Chronicles Series along with a few new ideas that may turn into stand-alone novels. When she’s not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, running, hiking, and reading.

photo credit: 
lakeridgees.schools.pwcs.edu

For the Reluctant Summer Readers

Writers generally love to read, but that doesn’t mean our kids always do, and with the advent of summer, some tweens are cheering the chance to toss books aside and get down to some serious video gaming or hanging with friends by the pool. No books for three months! Whoohooo!

 

Oh no. Not so fast. You can’t nurture a love of reading (which often comes with better reading proficiency) by ditching it 25% of the year.

photo credit: lakeridgees.schools.pwcs.edu
photo credit:
lakeridgees.schools.pwcs.edu

So how can we get our reluctant readers involved with books during the summer?

 

Here are a handful of ideas.

Volunteer at the Library

Many local libraries have summer reading programs that are run, at least in part, by youth volunteers. My kids will be spending every Tuesday afternoon helping kids sign up for the reading contests and select prizes for reaching reading goals. As enthusiastic readers come in and gush about their new favorite book, it can help a reluctant reader see that peers value reading. And, well, you know… If peers like it…

Even if something like that isn’t available, youth can often volunteer to help re-shelf books with adult supervision. There is something about handling the books, seeing the shiny covers and all the different genres and subjects, that piques interest in even anti-reading kids.

 

Watch the Movie

No, not instead of the book. With the book. This requires the parent or guardian to be quite familiar with both, but it’s worth it. We did this most recently with To Kill a Mockingbird, reading a chapter and then watching the corresponding scene in the movie. Since books and their movies are never quite the same, we talk about the differences and which one they enjoy better.  It doesn’t take long to find out that books usually include a lot more details. The benefit of the movie, though, is that it helps a reader visualize the characters and locations. This in turn keeps the energy going when they dive back into the pages.

 

Bring Back Bedtime Stories

Yes. With tweens. I’m not kidding. If you are good at reading aloud with expression, this can be a truly awesome bonding (or re-bonding) experience with even tweens. That bedtime slot is great because it’s time to wind down; there aren’t friends distracting, and it gets them settled before midnight so that you can sleep, too. (They might have the summer off, but you don’t necessarily have that luxury.) This is a great time to pull out the more fluffy, popular books that don’t feel like literature class–things that are fast-paced and either full of humor or action.  Learn to stop right at a good spot, and if they fuss for you to read more, you can say, “Not now, but you can always read more and tell me about it in the morning.” (wink wink)

 

Make a Movie

Tweens love taking pictures and stupid videos of themselves, so challenge them to make a movie out of a chapter from a book. They can do it with their friends–both the filming and the editing–so that makes it feel like fun.  There are plenty of free, simple movie-editing programs that don’t require advanced degrees to figure out, and they’ll probably learn some new skills in the process. This isn’t, after all, a graded school project. It’s going to be the main feature for a “home movie” night with popcorn and pizza.

 

Pair up!

Got two readers who’d rather not? Here’s a way they can get two books read for the mental price of one. Sort of. Start with two books of similar length (especially chapter length), and have each child (or parent and child) choose one and read the first chapter. Then they come back together and report on what happened in the story, hopefully with some details and enthusiasm so that the other kid wants to know more. Now they swap books and read the next chapter (or designated time length) and repeat the process.  This can be fun for a few reasons: (1) one chapter isn’t soooo daunting; (2) they feel like they’re leapfrogging through the book faster, and thus feel more accomplished; (3) summarizing the story for someone else helps it stick in their own minds more, thus boosting their memories of the events and making them feel more real; and (4) they don’t have to read for long–maybe only 15 minutes a day–to get through more books, which also boosts confidence.  This is a good activity for social kids because that positive feedback loop will cement that “reading is fun” idea into their subconscious.

 

Summer can be the opportunity to kindle (or rekindle) a child’s love of reading because it isn’t school-related. Since reading is a life skill that helps with countless others, it’s one of the best things you can do to ensure their success when school starts back up in the fall.

 

Now where’s that library card?

 


A shot B&WAncientsLia London

Recent release for young readers: Ancients of Drandsil and the Circle of Law (new edition of formerly called The Circle of Law).

Celebrate With a Good Book

I’ve always done events in a big way. When I say “big way,” I mean the jaw-dropping, time-devouring, kill-yourself-off, massive-effort kind of way. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to scale back a little whenever I get involved in a project, but the truth is: I love to throw myself whole-heartedly into making something fantastic and fun for other people, especially kids.

Birthdays around my house are usually a slice of over-the-top. I don’t go out and rent ponies or anything, but I always let the birthday girl choose a theme and plan the party around that theme. My favorites are the ones based on books. (I am a chronic bookaholic, after all!) It’s a great way to not only encourage kids to read, but to get them super excited about it! It brings the book to life!

 

fablehaven-05When my oldest daughter was ten, she became obsessed interested in Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. So, I put together a Fablehaven party for her. It was so much fun! I really enjoyed stretching my creative muscles.

fablehaven-03

Since her birthday is in the summer, we set up the Fablehaven “preserve” in the backyard, complete with fairies and a naiad pool.

dragoncake

There was a dragon cake (as you can see, I’m not so great in the cake department, but I try), and a bag of goodies, complete with “umite” wax and “milk” candy to give the kids magical sight.fablehaven-04

 

I loved the Fablehaven theme so much, that I also used it for a haunted house on Halloween. For that, I set up a black light fairy village that was being taken over by the shadow plague.fablehaven-01

 

We also used an animatronic “Fur Real” dog dressed in a costume to play the demon Graulas. He really moved, which was fun for guests!fablehaven-02

So, why not choose a book for your next party theme? I can totally see a Dreamkeeper party. (Hmmm. Maybe that’s my next Halloween haunt!) and a Ginnie West party, complete with horses and a rodeo, or Andy Smithson …. Okay, okay! I could go on and on. With all the tons of books right here on Emblazoners, you’re sure to find something fantastic that can spark a passion for reading in your kids!